Is It Time To Move On From Dustin McGowan?


Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsAs more and more players start piling in to Spring Training facilities across the Southern United States the real baseball stories start to pick up. Who’s going to start at 2nd Base for the Blue Jays come Opening Day? How will the new look team come together as a unit, despite some of the players heading off to the World Baseball Classic in March? When will Dustin McGowan ever come around and prove his potential? As pitchers and catchers began to throw on Tuesday, everything was starting to look up. Until about 2PM today, when the bad news broke.

"The bad news continues for McGowan. Sore shoulder, he is more or less shutdown at this point. Only light workload moving forward. No immediate timetable on when McGowan will be able to increase the intensity of his throwing program. Won’t throw off mound for now.Gregor Chisholm @gregorMLB"

Dustin McGowan is no stranger to shoulder injuries. According to his Baseball Prospectus page, the troubled pitcher has lost 698 games to shoulder injuries, including a span of 464 consecutive games missed spanning over three seasons, followed by another full season lost after pitching 21 innings in 2011. While there is little information to go by on how severe this setback will be, the Blue Jays are now at the point where they will have to make a crucial decision if he is to be injured again for a significant amount of time.

Keep Dustin McGowan or release him?

There are pros and cons to either side of this debacle. If the Blue Jays were to keep Dustin McGowan, they would likely put him on the 60-Day DL for however long he would need to recover. Another avenue for them to pursue is to designate him for assignment. It would be highly unlikely for anyone to pick up his remaining 2 year/$3.5M contract on the waiver wire while injured, and when he comes back he can spend as much time as he wants to recover from the injury. If he were on the 60-Day DL he’d only get about 30 days recovery time to work up his arm strength and get back to working shape, but with so much time on the DL already he could really use the time off the 40-man roster. In that scenario, he might be able to get some time to work against non-elite talent in the minors, learn his pitches again and slowly work his way up with the big club over time, perhaps in a bullpen role. There is the possibility that a team with big coffers could take a flier on Dustin McGowan and use him as a high risk/high reward type pitcher, and once put on waivers he’d have no team protection to stop that from happening.

The other side of the coin is to release him and eat the $3.5M he’s owed. Oddly enough, Dustin McGowan is currently the longest tenured athlete in Toronto pro sports, pitching with the Blue Jays since 2005. Despite flashes of brilliance in 2007 and 2008 (in which he collected 6.2 fWAR over that time), he’s been a long disappointment who has been eating up rehabilitation resources for several years, as well as contract money that could have been used on other players to better the Blue Jays. Eating the $3.5M Dustin McGowan is owed now will definitely open up more spending potentials in 2014, when current Blue Jays pitcher Josh Johnson is expected to reach free agency. Also, while it may not be of importance to many, the move to release McGowan would be a symbolic gesture. Alex Anthopoulos has ushered in a new era of expectations for the Blue Jays, acquiring big names like Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, Maicer Izturis and Josh Johnson to add to a strong core that already has great players like Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow, Edwin Encarnacion and the potential of Ricky Romero. Dustin McGowan being released would signal the final chapter of the “disappointing potential” era that the Blue Jays lived in throughout the 2000’s.

Whatever the Blue Jays decide, it will be hard to swallow for the fans that Dustin McGowan may never pitch another game for the team again.